WRT 104 Reflection

I needed to balance a range of goals: more sentence-level concerns, demystifying the expectations of academic writing, giving them some terms they could use to reflect on their writing (changing it from the inside), reading strategies, source use, etc. I drew from a range of sources but found Sidney Dobrin’s Rhetorical Situations, Rebecca Moore Howard’s Writing Matters, and Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say. I also took a strong genre approach.

In unit one, we focused on reading strategies, the role of different literacies, and rhetorical situations. For the unit assignment, I had them use rhetorical terms from class to analyze a particular situation, an “intellectual bootstrapping,” as some pedagogy calls it, that allows students to practice applying a schema or heuristic to a unique situation that they may know in their own life. To practice, we analyzed different situations in a similar way, drawing from Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University” to look at academic writing situations and June Jordan’s “Nobody Means More to Me Than You and The Future Life of Willie Jordan” to look at a more fraught situation of language politics. At the same time, we looked at reading and note-taking strategies as integral to the writing process.

Unit two focused around genre and analysis, culminating in a genre analysis, and it proved the most successful unit. To look at analysis, I drew from a range of heuristics, but the general pattern was the move from general patterns to individual examples and vise versa, using genre as our focus. For instance, in one activity, I had them go through their music collection, and we grouped different songs and artists into different genres, then looked at the tropes and purpose of those genres. Ambient music tended to relax and if it had a beat, it was usually droning and low; meanwhile, trap music was much more intense and was for certain kinds of dancing. In other words, we analyzed a group of individual examples to try to get a general set of patterns that may fit a genre and its subgenres. The students really grasped onto this, but as the assignment showed, they had some difficulty applying this same movement–analyzing examples to create general observations or claims–in other situations. To help with this, I think I would simplify the assignment and provide ready sets of examples or genres.

Unit three focused on creating a rhetorical toolbox and considering the role of ethics and argument. They liked the readings about different types of argument and we got into really good discussions about rhetoric and identity, but strong takeaways proved a bit hard, as we mostly just furthered speculation. For example, we discussed different types of argument and the role of civility and identity in society and politics. They really got interested in the limits or responsibilities of rhetoric and communication–particularly when to “hear someone out” or when to not–but these speculations did not lead to a sense of writing identity, the goal of the unit. While my goal was to give them a space to reflect on their identity as writers, the assignment and readings could have been more focused around more immediate, embodied experiences.